Smart, provocative and poignantly disturbing, this collection, the author's U.S. debut, signals a writer to watch.

GOOD INDIAN GIRLS

STORIES

Achingly merciless, London-born author Sidhu’s 12 short stories sharply delineate the edges of identity and sanity.

Playwright, novelist and Pushcart Prize winner Sidhu populates his collection with Indian diaspora. These haunting tales simultaneously attract and repel, enchant and shatter, evoking the ambiguous relationships between past and present, others and self. An airplane crash prompts a gas station employee to descend deeper and deeper into a madness in which everything, beginning with India itself, drops out of existence. Hoping to gain self-confidence and perhaps love, a young woman joins a decluttering class and finds herself drawn to a serial killer. A diplomat’s wife has spent so many years adapting to new cultures that she is dismayed to learn of her husband’s plan to retire. With the discovery of her pet python’s death, her confusion—what could India possibly mean to her now, after so many years and so many personas?—merges with an erotically tinged grief. Mysteriously promoted from a bottom-rung post in Africa to a cushy job in San Francisco, an alcoholic Indian diplomat tries to figure out why everyone believes he is an Urdu poet. Complicating matters are his emotionless lover and her father, who wields a strange power over her. A man’s addiction to classic novels impels him to hire a professional reader, which ruins his marriage. The discovery of a skull at an orphanage catalyzes a cult, a cult that replicates the hierarchy and complicity of colonization. Each ending seems unfinished, leaving each heart cracked open, perhaps to endure more pain or perhaps to remain simply unfulfilled. Deftly sifting through a range of less-often-visited emotions, Sidhu creates inscrutable characters inhabiting bewildering circumstances.

Smart, provocative and poignantly disturbing, this collection, the author's U.S. debut, signals a writer to watch.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59376-531-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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